Translating Policies into Practice: Culturally Appropriate Practices in an Atayal Aboriginal Kindergarten Program in Taiwan

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  • This article was downloaded by: [California State University Northridge]On: 29 October 2014, At: 19:52Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: MortimerHouse, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Translating Policies into Practice: CulturallyAppropriate Practices in an Atayal AboriginalKindergarten Program in TaiwanCecilia Lingfen Chang aa Department of Child Development and Education, Kindergarten Teacher TrainingProgram , Ming Hsin University of Science and Technology , TaiwanPublished online: 05 Sep 2012.

    To cite this article: Cecilia Lingfen Chang (2005) Translating Policies into Practice: Culturally AppropriatePractices in an Atayal Aboriginal Kindergarten Program in Taiwan, Childhood Education, 81:6, 355-359, DOI:10.1080/00094056.2005.10521326

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  • Cecilia Chang Lingfen

    Cecilia Lingfen Chang is Assis- tant Professor, Department of Child Devekment and Educa- tion, KindeGarten Teacher Training Pmgram, Ming Hsin University of Science and Technology, Taiwan.

    Practice

    Translating Policies Into

    Culturally Appropriate Practices in an Atayal Aboriginal

    Kindergarten Program in Taiwan

    I

    M any aboriginal cultures follow their collective wisdom in order to adapt to their living environments. The Atayal natives in Taiwan focus on the natural world, such as the stars, and birds and other animals, as their guide. They have used their cultural heritage to build and exercise knowledge without the help of books and training. Their perceptions and collective knowledge may differ, however, from the information presented in modern textbooks. In addition, ways of learning, doing, and acting in the aboriginal culture also often differ from those followed by the mainstream culture. These cultural conflicts, when not addressed in mainstream schools' curriculum and instruction, may result in aboriginal children's academic and socio-emotional failure.

    The Atayal (Taiyal) tribe lives in the northern region of Taiwan, on either side of the Central Mountain range, and includes the Sedolek group and Tseole branches. Most of the Atayal people make their living farming the mountainous hills and hunting animals. The Atayal people are famous for their weaving and knitting skills, their unique Kou-Wa instrument that accompanies dances, and their seashell-decorated clothes, including hats, skirts, and leg wrappers. A unique aspect of their culture is the tattoo face. Traditionally, the tattoo face is an honor for those men who have hunted enemy heads; it represents bravery. Women who have demonstrated weav- ing skills also would earn a tattoo face. No one would like to marry a woman who does not have a tattoo face. The Atayal people believe that the tattoo face is the only way to maintain their identity, and allow their spirits to be recognized after death. Wearing the tattoo face had been prohibited since the Japanese colonial era, however. The only tattoo-faced Atayal people are elders 80 years old or older.

    The Atayal group has two beliefs that are very different from other aboriginal groups. One is the "gaga" concept; the other is the "rutux" belief. Gaga concerns social morality, and refers to regulations a member of the community must follow. If anyone offends gaga, then he/she will be punished by rutux, a supernatural spirit. The rutux may scare you into sickness. When Atayal people drink and eat, they drop some food to share with the rutux. When Atayal people leave the mountain, they need to jump over a fire to separate themselves from the rutux.

    Cultural conflicts,

    when not addressed

    in mainstream

    schools' cu rricu I u m

    and instruction, may

    result in aboriginal

    children's academic

    and socio-emotional

    fa i I ure.

    INTERNATIONAL Focus ISSUE 2005 + 355

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  • In recent years, the Taiwan government has realized the importance of aboriginal education, both for the economic advancement of the country and for the fulfillment of its democratic ideals. Taiwans system of compulsory education, which runs from grades 1 through 9, has resulted in a well-educated workforce for the countrys rapidly growing economy. The Tai- wanese government has taken steps to implement improved education planning and policies for chil- dren of all ages. Although the current education policy has increased the amount of resources and funding allocated to meet the demand of compulsory educa- tion, many factors still pose challenges for aboriginal children and communities. Educational resources are not distributed equally between cities and rural areas (urban schools are better equipped). Teacher attrition is higher in aboriginal schools, and the government has not done enough to educate aboriginal parents about the importance of early childhood education. In addition, aboriginal parents cannot afford to send their children to quality preschool and kindergarten programs.

    While teaching a course on Designing Kindergarten Curriculum at a teacher-training program in Taiwan, I realized that I had seven aboriginal preservice teach- ers in my class; previously I had none. Those students brought my attention to the Kui-whai kindergarten program of the Atayal tribal natives. During the class discussion on multicultural issues of curriculum de- sign and pedagogy, two of the aboriginal students shared their perception that the Kui-whai kindergarten program is an effective curriculum model for aborigi- nal children. Some of these students also were parents of Kui-whai kindergartners. The Kui-whai kindergar- ten, part of the Kui-whai primary school, is located in Fu-Shin, a village on La-La Mountain in Tau-Yuan county, where the Atayal natives live. The Taiwan Ministry of Education has selected the village as one of its educational priority regions. I conducted an ethno- graphic study in this kindergarten from February through June 2004. During this time, 22 children were enrolled in this kindergarten classroom. My ethno- graphic study shed some light on how government policy affects the curriculum and pedagogical practices of this kindergarten.

    The Taiwan Governments Polic Toward

    In recent years, the Taiwan government has established policies to support minority education on the island. Critics claim, however, that many factors still pose challenges for aboriginal children and communities. Chang (1997) maintains that the Taiwan governments policy has contributed to both the success and the failure of indigenous education.

    the Education of Aboriginal Chi r dren

    Since 1998, the Taiwan Ministry of Education has formed and promoted the following five educational goals for educational priority regions:

    To establish strategies that facilitate effective use of resources To reduce the existing differences between cities and rural areas by providing a wide range of sup- port services to culturally disadvantaged regions To protect minority ethnic groups educational rights and improve their educational achievement To strive for social justice and ensure equity of educational opportunities To upgrade human resource qualities and levels of education to counter the existing differences among regions.

    The educational reform movement in Taiwan fo- cuses on the equitable treatment of aboriginal children in educational institutions and on preparation of ab- original children for future employment. In 1997, the Constitution of the Republic of China (Taiwan) offi- cially acknowledged the countrys responsibility to preserve aboriginal culture and language and stated, Our country confirms the multi-cultural perspectives, to promote and maintain the development of aborigi- nal culture and languages. The Atayal language does not exist in a written format. They have been forced to give up their language and speak Mandarin. The new law allows the Atayal people to reconnect to their own language. One of the Atayal preservice teachers in my class remarked,

    For a long time, the government only allowed us to speak Mandarin. Young tribal people therefore cannot speak the Atayal dialect. Because the government is promoting our dialect and culture now, we are asking elderly people in our community about our lost language and customs. I feel that by respecting our language and culture, we develop our confidence and self-esteem.

    The village of Fu-Shin was selected as one of the educational priority regions, based on the aboriginal education law, officially established on June 17,1998, which allows for the provision of financial assistance to regions inhabited by aboriginal groups for the estab- lishment of kindergartens and child care centers. This law intends to provide aboriginal children with access to early childhood education programs as well as to grade schools, with the hope that the education system will be able to preserve and expand upon aboriginal cultures. Since 1999, the Ministry of Edu- cation in Taiwan has allocated funds to implement five projects in educational priority regions, which includes Kui-whai.

    356 + CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

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  • The Im act of Government Policy on

    Kindergarten Program In this section, I will discuss the goals of the five projects that resulted from the Taiwan governments policy on the education of aboriginal children. Based on my research at the Kui-whai kindergarten program, I will integrate the implications of each of these projects for the children, teachers, and parents in this kindergarten program.

    Project 1: The first project intends to establish a comprehensive educational system for aboriginal chil- dren that includes: appropriate educational regula- tions, administrative system, vocational education, special education, connections between different lev- els of school systems, educational evaluation and moni- toring system, and early childhood education. Kui-whais full-time kindergarten was first established under this project funding. Referring to this project, a parent stated:

    Curricu s urn and Pedagogy of Kui-whai

    The new policy allows us to send children to kindergarten for free. Otherwise, some children may not have education at all. Our tribal community has many single parent families or children living with grandparents, or re-married double families.

    To bring the children to Kui-whai each day, a teacher assistant rides in a van from 5:30 a.m. until 9:30 a.m., picking up children from different locations around the mountain. For some children, the only decent meal they will eat all day is provided at school. To educate aboriginal children, schools and teachers.are no longer just engaged in teaching and learning; they are also attending to the basic survival needs of these children.

    Project 2: The second project intends to improve preservice and inservice teacher training, as well as improving job prospects for aboriginal youth. Lily, one of the Kui-whai kindergarten teachers and half ab- origine, has taught for the past six years, along with an assistant teacher. With the support of this funding, she completed her masters degree. Lily has made positive changes in her classroom practices and designed au- thentic learning experiences to motivate Atayal chil- dren and their communities.

    Project 3: The third project is designed to enrich the curriculum and instruction of aboriginal education to promote the teaching of aboriginal languages and cul-

    tures, promote multicultural curriculum and teaching, and evaluate the effectiveness of curriculum and in- struction. This project incorporates childrens culture into the classroom practices and recognizes it as a form of knowledge, thereby helping to address the conflict between mainstream and aboriginal cultures (Gay, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 1995; Thomas, 2002). In the past six years, the Kui-whai kindergarten, driven by this newly established policy, has adopted a bilingual and bicul- tural approach to its literacy and arithmetic curricula.

    Project 4: The fourth project is designed to promote parenting education, which includes research on parenting styles and practices of aboriginal groups, as well as policies and laws related to aboriginal parent involvement and education. At Kui-whai, Lily invites her students parents to participate in their childrens birthday celebrations, teach traditional dances and songs, demonstrate how to cook customary meals, and join in on various other cultural lessons inside or outside the classroom. She even visits each childs home regularly on days when school is not in session. Lily talks to the parents about their childrenand records the important things that parents share regarding their children. The practice of regular home visits reflects the commitment of the Kui-whai kindergarten pro- gram and the teachers dedication as they extend their expertise and guidance to childrens families and the community.

    Project 5: The fifth project is designed to integrate multicultural perspectives in every aspect of schooling and for all grade levels, with the goal of promoting respect and understanding among ethnic groups. This project addresses educators and researchers concer...

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